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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bears

Follow two bear cubs, Amber & Scout, during their first year as they journey across Alaska with their mom, Skye, in search of food after hibernation. Threaten by an avalanche, a stalking wolf, and other bears, mama bear does her best to care and protect her babies. This Disney Nature movie is beautifully shot with telephoto lens, underwater cameras, and slo-mo film. John C. Reilly does a wonderful job of narration with his unique and humorous style. This family film is fun and educational.

Alien gives it 3 "frolicking & foraging" stars out of 4.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Million Dollar Arm

It's "Slumdog Millionaire" meets "Trouble with the Curve"when a sports management agency travels to India in search of raw new talent for Major League Baseball. John Ham, Lake Bell, Bill Paxton, and Alan Arkin are the name draws for this inspirational story that sounds too improbable to be believable. However, this film is based on a true story that most people never even heard of. Alien loved the film's sense of humor and the exposure of cultural differences. This fun family film felt Disney-fied just to pitch that perfect plot until the real life photos and clips were revealed during the credits. This January 22, 2014 review has been postpone until the film's official estimated release date in May 2014.

Alien gives it 3 "unconventional recruitment strategy" stars out of 4.

ps
It is indeed a strange irony that three baseball fans from San Francisco launched a venture in July 2006 that led to the discovery of India's first professional baseball pitchers, who were signed two years later by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the very team that beat the Giants the day the initial idea was conceived.


Million Dollar Arm (revisited)

Alien just got another chance to screen this marvelous film and it seemed even better the second time around. Disney magic knocks one out of the park with great characters, exotic locale, wonderful sense of humor, and lots of heart in this inspirational true story for all of those dreamers out there.

Alien gives it 3 ½ "let's play ball" stars out of 4.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Oculus

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the deadliest of them all?

Eleven years after witnessing the death of their parents, two traumatized kids grow up to seek answers from an antique mirror suspected of harboring evil spirits. Good performances (from 6 actors playing 4 characters) with a mind-bending plot that blurs the lines between past & present and between reality & fantasy make this low budget film effective and entertaining. The story is more twisted than scary. Today's thrill seekers craving startling CGI special effects may feel deceived by the old style smoke-and-mirrors routine. Some also may be disappointed by the outcome, but it's not totally unexpected considering the horror genre (although more psychological than gory).

Alien gives it 2 ½ "Lasser Glass" stars out of 4.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Rio 2

In this sequel, our fine feathered friends, Blu & Jewel, along with their three kids leave the city comforts of Rio de Janeiro and venture into the wilds of the Amazon rainforest searching for more of their kind, the rare blue Spix's macaws. Hot on their tail is the vengeful cockatoo, Nigel, and his minions, Gabi the poison dart frog and Charlie the anteater. It's Rio Carnival, road trip, father & child reunion, fish out of water, Amazon's Got Talent, endangered species, save the rainforest, and bird cup soccer all rolled into one delightful animated family fun song-and-dance comedy adventure.

Alien gives it 3 ½ "flock of fun" stars out of 4.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The triple threat team of Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) thrill audiences with their skills to kill in a battle between S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA, where it's hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. An assassin called the Winter Soldier is HYDRA's mysterious mayhem man with a metal arm. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are back leading the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Robert Redford and Emily Van Camp get featured roles. This action packed special effects spectacular stays true to comic book storyline form. Alien could sense where the film was going but that wasn't a bad thing. The Marvel machine continues their movie magic mesmerizing audiences around the world. Stay seated through the credits for two tease clips hinting to what may be next in stored for future Marvel projects.

Alien gives it 4 "Operation: Insight" stars out of 4.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pirate Fairy

A misunderstood fairy, Zarina, exiles herself from Pixie Hollow only to return a year later with a plot to steal blue fairy dust for her new pirate crew mates. This delightful show is the fifth in the Tinker Bell Fairy series and features a typical Disney storyline. It features some switched powers,a mutiny, and Peter Pan connection. If your kids love fairies and pirates, check it out when it comes out on DVD/BluRay on April 1st.

Alien gives it 3 1/2 "Pixie Dust Alchemy" stars out of 4.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Noah (IMAX)

The classic Biblical tale of Noah (Russell Crowe) has been retooled and retold for today's audiences in epic proportions. This powerfully intense version is not a mild children's Sunday school story. A vegetarian environmentalist/survivalist chosen one faces a heavy burden as he interprets the visions provided by the Creator. Alien was amazed by the special effects and surprised by the violence. Emma Watson & Jennifer Connelly give heart felt performances. This movie focuses on the people in the struggle between good & evil rather than the gathering of animals and the great flood. It is beautifully shot in picturesque Iceland with a full size ark, but it is even more impressive when seen at an IMAX theater.

Alien gives it 3 ½ "man on a mission" stars out of 4.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sabotage

Someone is playing a deadly game of 'Ten Little Indians" with a drug-busting team suspected of stealing from the Cartel. This stolen money/murder mystery film reeks of Schwarzenegger testosterone. However, Arnold is getting a little long in the tooth to be as convincing as in his pre-gubenatoral heydays. Although he is smartly surrounded with rugged bad-ass muscle, they seem to be lost in a blood bath of ultra-violence. It's a macho boys club where the guys all have catchy nicknames and the token gal is equally as tough and can really dish it out. See which D.E.A. S.O.T. S.O.B.s end up R.I.P. This is more "shock & awe" than attention to plot details and character development. Why does an undercover agent run around with job initials proudly embroidered like a target on his shirt?

Alien gives it 2 "many blood pools" stars out of 4.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The story of a concierge and a lobby boy in the fictional country of Zubrowka is told only as director Wes Anderson could. There are quirky characters rushing about with fast paced narratives & dialogues delivered with dead pan humor amid site gags galore. It is an all star cast with the likes of Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Wilkinson. The sets are visually stimulating and rich in color & style. These are all standard elements of a Wes Anderson production. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the backdrop for this murder mystery/prison escape/fugitive on the run comedy. Although isn't my sense of humor, Alien was entertained by some of these crazy antics. 

Alien gives it 2 ½ "Society of Crossed Keys" stars out of 4.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Divergent

It's "Hunger Games" meets "G.I. Jane" meets "Star Wars" in a future Chicago's dystopian society which is divided into 5 factions in order to insure the peace after a great war. This coming-of-age story has the film's protagonist, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), making a life committing decision and undergoing rites of passage before discovering who she really is. She is divergent and doesn't fit into any one faction. It is a complex story that unfolds slowly at first but then the conflicts and battles burst on to the scene. Theo James plays the other main character nicknamed Four, with Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Mikhi Phifer, Maggie Q, Jai Courtney, and Zoe Kravitz rounding out the cast. Alien loved this setting of a misguided society maintaining peace through a caste system with corrupted ideals and the band of rebels trying to right the wrongs. After 2 hours 20 minutes, I can hardly wait to see where the train's end-of-the-line takes our heroes in this first episode of a trilogy.

Alien gives it 4 "factions before blood" stars out of 4.

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